Propose with a Rose? Signaling in Internet Dating Markets
NBER Working Paper No. 17340
The large literature on costly signaling and the somewhat scant literature on preference signaling had varying success in showing the effectiveness of signals. We use a field experiment to show that even when everyone can send a signal, signals are free and the only costs are opportunity costs, sending a signal increases the chances of success. In an online dating experiment, participants can attach “virtual roses” to a proposal to signal special interest in another participant. We find that attaching a rose to an offer substantially increases the chance of acceptance. This effect is driven by an increase in the acceptance rate when the offer is made to a participant who is less desirable than the proposer. Furthermore, participants endowed with more roses have more of their offers accepted than their counterparts.
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An online appendix is available for this publication.